In closed session before a special meeting at 2:00 PM today, the City Council will consider whether or not to lift or modify a previous order to take legal action to close Richmond’s eight illegal Marijuana dispensaries pending a second reading and implementation of a regulatory ordinance approved on a first reading last Tuesday. The second reading of the ordinance will not take place until the City Council comes back from its August break in September.
Of the eight known dispensaries in Richmond, one is under a permanent injunction to close, and another has entered into a stipulated judgment. Legal action is pending against the others.
Far from being the retreats of health and goodness that their operators and advocates have touted in the last few City Council hearings, these shops have a lot of baggage that needs to go away before three are chosen to operate legally. None would qualify to operate under Richmond’s new proposed rules.
- One seller has an extensive criminal history including multiple felony convictions, recent CDC inmate; recent arrest/conviction for felon in possession of firearm; two prior DUI convictions under influence of alcohol and drugs causing bodily injury; plus multiple felony convictions for forgery of documents, burglary, etc. Other arrests with unknown dispositions include being under the influence of controlled substance (not marijuana), terrorist threats, assault, etc.
- An officer and employee of one dispensary are convicted felons, one on active parole, one a registered sex offender (PC290) and who were operating indoor “grow facilities” inside residences in Sacramento and San Rafael.
- One dispensary reported an armed robbery of cash and marijuana and a second robbery of marijuana. An employee was beaten and tied up.
- All dispensaries either operated without business licenses or falsified the description of the business, such as “garden store,” “retailer,” and “cut flowers.” Some business licenses were altered on the premises to show information different than that shown when filing with the City.
- Some landlords have complained that the dispensaries misrepresented the nature of the businesses ad are in the process of evicting their tenants.
- Several permit indoor smoking in conflict with local and state laws restricting smoking in workplaces.
- Typically, marijuana comes from a variety of sources, mostly outside the collectives, and is not tested for contaminants such as mold and pesticide.
- One operator’s prior marijuana dispensary was essentially driven out of the City of Oakland due to on-going neighborhood complaints, allegations of criminal activities and general nuisance issues. The operator currently owns at least four large marijuana dispensaries and lives over a hundred miles from Richmond.
Proponents of lifting legal action to close the dispensaries will argue that it will inconvenience those Richmond residents who have come to depend on a local source for their medicine. I will argue that marijuana is readily available legally in Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco for the next two or three months while Richmond gets its act together, and that lifting the closure order now will send a bad message that Richmond is not serious about enforcing its zoning ordinance and other laws. It will just encourage others to flout the law.